Ah, Holy Jesus
Johann Heermann, 1630
Imagine your pastor, his health ruined by disease, fleeing for his life across the Oder River, while bullets whistle past his head, and the boat hardly manages to keep from sinking. Imagine that it’s not the first time or the last that he will lose everything. He lost his first wife to the plague when they were both young, and now he and his second wife and their four children are without a home and without the money to buy a loaf of bread. How do you love, when waves of misfortune crash over your head? But then, what is left to you, but faith, and hope, and love?
The pastor was Johann Heermann, the author of our Hymn of the Week, Herzliebster Jesu (Most dearly beloved Jesus) loved, that is, from the heart. We English speakers know it as “Ah, Holy Jesus,” translated from the German by the poet Robert Bridges, to whom every lover of poetry owes an unrepayable debt, not for his own work, though that is quite solid, but for his having saved and finally published the brilliant poetry …
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